Barney and the Runaway by Max Elliot Anderson is a story of a little boy who learns how much God and his parents love him. Mike Ellis is tired of his parents yelling at him and punishing him, so he decides to teach them a lesson by running away temporarily. His plans are changed when he falls asleep in a box car and is carried far away with a circus in trouble. Hebrews 12:6 would be an excellent verse for this book: “Because the Lord disciplines the ones He loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as His son.”
The plot is simple and easy to follow, making it a good (if not entirely realistic) story for its young audience. However, the roughness of a “normal” parent-child relationship is slightly exaggerated. There are several intense points in the story, but the most intense is the circus performance at the end of the book. Mike performs in front of a huge audience for the first time in his life, knowing that someone is going to try to sabotage the performance, and also knowing that his parents are somewhere in the audience.
Mike and his dog Barney only mean to be gone for a day or so (just to scare his parents), but falling asleep in the boxcar leads them to Big Bob, a clown and runaway himself. It’s Big Bob who discovers the boy, takes him in and gives him a part in the circus as a minor performer. Then Mike learns that the circus has suffered several attempts to sabotage it. Can he save the circus? And will he learn his own lesson and be reunited with his parents?
Mike is temperamental and emotionally driven, like real boys his age. The other characters are also very believable for a young audience, though they may be slightly two-dimensional for more mature readers. Nevertheless, this book offers a good lesson and is very appropriate for a young, churched audience. – Becky Blomenberg, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
Mike hated the way his parents were always telling him what to do. Along with his dog, Barney, he decides to teach them a lesson by pretending to run away for a few hours. The plan gets complicated when Mike and Barney hide in a railroad boxcar, fall asleep, and end up in Georgia with a circus in the middle of the night. After his experiences away from home, Mike learns the importance of family, and that you don't appreciate what you have until its gone.